Sunday, July 17, 2011

Yes, it's a wonderful world

While lots of folks are dividing their time wondering whether Fox News will survive the Murdoch "scandal" and getting angry over the Casey Anthony jury verdict,  amazing things are going on, some of which I want to mention here.

01.  Dawn over Vesta.

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has entered orbit around the massive asteroid Vesta!  Think about that for a while.

02.  A Light has gone out!

Our good friend, Jack Kolb passed away recently, and a memorial service was held for him at Carroll Lutheran Village in Westminster, Maryland.  I was priviledged to say a few words and read a touching letter from one of his daughters.

Jack had many talents.. he got his pilot's license when he turned 16;  he taught roller skating;  he had a photographic business;  he obtained two masters degrees;  he served in the Department of Defence for many years, in liaison with the U.S. Army and NSA;  he visited Greenland and the North Pole on twenty or so occasions;  he was listed in several Who's Who's of noted Americans;  he was an aide to Vice President Dan Quail; he was in contact with all of the American Nobel Laureates;  he was a frequent contributor to Reader's Digest;  he was a physics professor at American University;  etc, etc.

Jack was also a sponsor of a young lady who wants to be a pediatric nurse, as Jack's late wife, Rita, was.  Many of the great musicians and poets had "patrons" a few years ago.  Jack enjoyed being such a patron and ensuring that a gifted person would be able to study without financial care.

Jack was in his eighties and I thought that he would be around for at least another fifteen years.  I will miss his brilliant mind.  I  have been involved with Mensa and Intertel for over forty years, and have known some very smart folks.. however, none of them could match the breadth and depth of Jack's knowledge, in my opinion.

Rest In Peace, My Friend!

03.  Ah Choo!

Somebody sent me some "facts" that are supposed to be true..

One was:  when a person sneezes, their heart stops and brain functions cease.

If this is true.. there must be a lot of sneezing going on in Congress these days!

04.  Innie?  Outie? 

Another "fact" was:  Alfred Hitchcock did not have a belly button.

How could that be.. how did Lord Alfred get born.. I knew he was weird, but I didn't know it had something to do with parthenogenesis.  Is he a reincarnation of Adam? (Wait a minute... Michaelangelo showed Adam with a belly button... huh?)

I was taught in Sunday School that if one looked at a group of naked women, you would be able to tell which one was Eve by noting that she would be the only one without a belly button. (I always wondered why anyone would be interested in belly buttons in the company of naked women.)

Hey, Brother Joe.. help me out on this.

05.  Dear Anonymous:

This blog gets a lot of comments from someone named Anonymous.   Sometimes the comment is in Chinese or Japanese .. sometimes in Korean .. sometimes in French or German .. but most often in English.  I have tried to translate the Asian comments, but the results were usually unintelligible.. reading as though they were like "Headlines" on the Jay Leno show.  I can read the French, German and English ones, which are often advertisements, requests for help with computer issues, or requests for information on medical problems such as body odor, or similar.  

However, sometimes the comments relate to the blog entry and are very interesting, and I do try to respond with a related comment.  I would, however, ask that if you want an appropriate response, that you include your email address in your comment.

06.  Important Health Fact from an Almanac:

With proper care, the human body will last a lifetime.

07.  Now they tell me!

The Week magazine recently reported that  a Purdue University study shows that artificial sweeteners could be making you fat. 

The researchers found that "rats fed a steady diet of sugar substitutes were hungrier and gained more weight than rats that ate surgary food...  It appears that artificial sweeteners confuse the body, which is programmed to associate swet tastes with calories consumed, and when we repeatedly eat something sweet that provides little or no calories, we break that connection, and our confused bodies keep seeking more food."

"... the rats that frequently ate sugar substitutes, also didn't have the metabolic increase that usually follows eating a meal, so they burned fewer calories..." according to researcher Susan Swithers.

08.  Zukes

Our Earthbox gardens are overtaking our deck this Summer.  So far, we have enjoyed several red tomatoes, a number of yellow squashes, some green beans,  three cucumbers, and four giant zucchinis.
The other day, I found my Aunt Mary's Zucchini Bread recipe and I can't wait to make and taste some. However, before I can make it, I have to buy some things that we don't keep in our house:

sugar (see #07 above)
baking soda
baking powder

Whenever I would visit my Aunt Mary, she would always have zucchini bread for me to eat, Summer or Winter.. she started keeping some in her freezer, as soon as refridgerators began to have freezers connected to them. 

09.  The Iceman Cometh

What on earth  did we do before we had freezers?  I remember, as a kid, stealing ice shavings from the iceman as he went into houses to deliver giant blocks of ice for the icebox.  I remember my grandmother paying the iceman 35 cents for enough ice to fill our icebox, a big wooden cabinet, whose top opened up to reveal a metal container for the ice.

Once, on a tour of Thomas Jefferson's Virginia home, the tour guide showed us Mr. Jefferson's ice house.   In the Winter, his slaves would go out on the frozen ponds and cut out huge blocks of ice, which they would bring back to his estate and place in the ice house, which was dug out of the ground.  Then, they would cover the ice with straw and hay and hope that this would keep the ice more or less frozen for a long time.. perhaps even until the Summer months.

The tour guide reminded us of what a great equalizer ice was.  Everybody had ice..  the rich had it in the Summer, the poor had it in the Winter.

10.  Christmas in July

In New Windsor, Maryland..  about 25 miles northwest of Baltimore, and next to our Carroll Lutheran Village home in Westminster, Maryland.. is  an organization called SERRV.  This organization acts as a middleman for native people around the world who want to sell items that they produce.  The organization is church-affiliated and therefore is a non-profit organization. 

SERRV will be having a Christmas in July sale until July 23, 2011.  This year they will be featuring Christmas ornaments, tree skirts, nativity  scenes, Divine dark chocolate, baskets, specialty  coffee, and much more.  All items are at 60% of their usual price.

If you are looking for something to do, and you want to see some interesting and different merchandise, drop by.  And, if you purchase anything, you will be helping ordinary native craftsmen from around the world.

11.  Baby, Baby!

The Week magazine reports that a lady in Texas (of course.. everything in Texas is gigantic).. gave birth to a 2 foot long, 16 pound baby!  Ow! .. maybe not quite OW!.. because it was delivered by Caesarean Section.  ("Hey, doc, knock me out and wake me up when the hairdresser shows up.")

My late wife's French Canadian relatives talked about the 14 pound babies that were common back in Canada years ago.  Pregnant women were encouraged to eat 4 or more hefty meals each day during their nine months.  Of course, many women died in childbirth back in those days.  Pre-natal care? What was that?

12.  Handwriting!?

Indiana third-graders may no longer be taught cursive, because it is thought that they would never use it.. being so computer literate and such.. with texting much more useful...  Come on.. what kind of nonsense is this?  Are we supposed to allow a generation of people to grow up not knowing how to read a letter written by their grandmother?  (I would not be able to enjoy my Aunt Mary's zucchini recipe if I was not able to decipher her handwriting.)

When I was stationed in Germany, I taught myself basic German, including Gothic text and handwriting.. which at some point in time was not being taught to German school children.  Thus, I ended up in the strange situation where I, as an American,  could read letters written in the "old" handwriting, while some of my German-born and raised  acquaintances could not.   Will that be the case for cursive in the US? 

Should schools stop teaching math because we now rely mainly on calculators and computers?